MLB Power Rankings: Athletics stay in first, Braves begin to climb

For the third straight week, the A's are atop the Power Rankings, and for the second consecutive week, the Brewers follow right behind. The top-five is a close battle right now, as the Angels and Dodgers are separated by just one point at third and fourth place, respectively. The Tigers, meanwhile, have surged from eighth to fifth.

They're No. 1: Athletics. It was a relatively easy week but another successful one for Oakland, which went 4-1 and rebounded from a 10-1 loss to the Mets in its first game of the week to win its next four by scoring an average of seven runs per game. Now things get really interesting: The A’s open a three-game set in Detroit against the AL Central-leading Tigers on Monday, return home on Thursday for a four-game series with the AL East-leading Blue Jays and then play their Bay Area rivals for four straight games, with two games in Oakland and two in San Francisco. Eleven games in 11 days against three teams that enter this week tied or alone atop their respective divisions will be as difficult a gantlet as any club faces all year.

Cellar Dweller: Diamondbacks. There is something to look forward to this week for Arizona fans: They won’t have to watch the Diamondbacks play in person. Kirk Gibson’s crew is an inexplicable 15-30 at Chase Field this season, and after going 3-6 on their most recent homestand, the D-backs won two of three in San Diego to kickstart a three-city, nine-game road trip that continues this week with series in Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Arizona then has only three home games left before the All-Star break, and by the time it opens the unofficial second half in the desert on July 18, it could look very different. Several D-backs, including pitcher Brandon McCarthy and perhaps even general manager Kevin Towers, have been rumored to be looking at a change of address in the coming weeks.

Biggest Riser: Braves. A 6-1 week helped Atlanta move from No. 14 to No. 8 and, more importantly, back into first place in the NL East. Not that the club had fallen very far: The Braves haven't been more than two games out all season, but a four-game sweep of the Phillies – their first in Philadelphia in 50 years – allowed them to take a half-game lead heading into Monday. The most impressive part of the organization’s week, though, came from its Class A Lynchburg Hillcats, which tossed combined no-hitters on consecutive days.

Biggest Faller: Cardinals. The last seven days were as baffling for St. Louis as its season has been to date. The Cards scored 22 runs at Coors Field while taking two of three, then were held to four runs total while losing three of four in an NLCS rematch with the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Manager Mike Matheny will have the additional headache of filling out the NL All-Star roster this week, but his bigger task is getting his defending league champions righted now that their NL Central deficit has matched a season-high at 6 1/2 games.

A few words about the...

Giants: Three weeks ago, San Francisco was on top of our Power Rankings, with the most wins in baseball and an 8 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West. But as June turns to July, everything has fallen apart in for the Giants. After going a wretched 1-6 last week, including a four-game sweep by Cincinnati, San Francisco has blown its entire NL West advantage and has fallen out of the top-five in our rankings, landing at No. 6. Injuries, in particular Angel Pagan's balky back, have limited the offense, while the continued difficulties of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum (no-hitter aside) are hampering the rotation. And in the bullpen, Sergio Romo's recent struggles (15 earned runs in his last 15 innings) has cost him the closer's job.

Mariners: Seattle may trail the Athletics by 7 1/2 games in the AL West, but it isn't fading away. The Mariners went 4-2 last week, picking up series wins against Boston and Cleveland, to improve to 17-10 in the month of June. No player has been more instrumental to that success than Seattle's longtime ace, Felix Hernandez, who is having arguably his greatest season. Hernandez's 2.10 ERA, 179 ERA+, 1.96 FIP, 9.6 strikeout-per-nine ratio, 1.5 walks-per-nine ratio and 6.23 strikeout-to-walk ratio are all career-highs, and he leads the American League in WHIP at 0.92 and the majors in innings pitched at 128 1/3. Last week, he threw an absolute gem against Cleveland, shutting out the Indians for eight innings on just one hit while striking out nine and walking three. The resulting Game Score of 86 was his best of the season.

Rangers: As one AL West team rises, another keeps falling. A 2-4 week dropped Texas to No. 24 in the rankings and leaves it a whopping 14 games back of Oakland in the AL West. Injuries have been the biggest reason for the Rangers' struggles this season, and the players brought in to replace the fallen simply haven't been up to the task. Season-ending ailments to Prince Fielder (herniated disc in his neck) and Mitch Moreland (left ankle) have forced Texas into a first-base rotation of Brad Snyder (82 OPS+ so far this season) and 36-year-old retread Carlos Pena, who was signed off the scrap heap on June 17. In the rotation, meanwhile, the likes of Colby Lewis (71 ERA+), Nick Martinez (87) and Joe Saunders (78) haven't picked up the slack for Matt HarrisonDerek Holland or Martin Perez.

1
1Oakland Athletics
last week: 1
POINTS: 180

Low Vote: N/A

2
2Milwaukee Brewers
last week: 2
POINTS: 172

Low Vote: 4th

3
3Los Angeles Angels
last week: 4
POINTS: 164

Low Vote: 6th

4
4Los Angeles Dodgers
last week: 7
POINTS: 163

Low Vote: 5th (2x)

5
5Detroit Tigers
last week: 8
POINTS: 155

Low Vote: 9th

6
6San Francisco Giants
last week: 3
POINTS: 149

Low Vote: 8th

7
7Seattle Mariners
last week: 11
POINTS: 143

Low Vote: 8th (3x)

8
8Atlanta Braves
last week: 14
POINTS: 133

Low Vote: 12th

9
9Washington Nationals
last week: 9
POINTS: 131

Low Vote: 11th

10
10Cincinnati Reds
last week: 15
POINTS: 128

Low Vote: 12th

11
11Toronto Blue Jays
last week: 6
POINTS: 124

Low Vote: 12th

12
12St. Louis Cardinals
last week: 5
POINTS: 118

Low Vote: 16th

13
13Baltimore Orioles
last week: 10
POINTS: 104

Low Vote: 15th

14
14Kansas City Royals
last week: 12
POINTS: 102

Low Vote: 16th

15
15Pittsburgh Pirates
last week: 16
POINTS: 96

Low Vote: 18th

16
16New York Yankees
last week: 13
POINTS: 93

Low Vote: 18th

17
17Cleveland Indians
last week: 18
POINTS: 79

Low Vote: 19th (2x)

18
18Miami Marlins
last week: 17
POINTS: 78

Low Vote: 20th

19
19New York Mets
last week: 21
POINTS: 67

Low Vote: 22nd (2x)

20
20Boston Red Sox
last week: 20
POINTS: 66

Low Vote: 23rd

21
21Chicago White Sox
last week: 24
POINTS: 61

Low Vote: 26th

22
22Minnesota Twins
last week: 19
POINTS: 51

Low Vote: 25th

23
23Colorado Rockies
last week: 22
POINTS: 48

Low Vote: 28th

24
24Texas Rangers
last week: 23
POINTS: 42

Low Vote: 25th (2x)

25
25Chicago Cubs
last week: 27
POINTS: 36

Low Vote: 28th

26
26Houston Astros
last week: 26
POINTS: 32

Low Vote: 27th

27
27Tampa Bay Rays
last week: 28
POINTS: 29

Low Vote: 29th (2x)

28
28San Diego Padres
last week: 29
POINTS: 18

Low Vote: 30th (2x)

29
29Philadelphia Phillies
last week: 25
POINTS: 17

Low Vote: 30th (2x)

30
30Arizona Diamondbacks
last week: 30
POINTS: 10

Low Vote: 30th (2x)

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